Warm weather and the summer weekends mean it’s time to fire up your backyard grill. Whether carrot hot dogs or burgers au poivre are on the menu, your shopping list should include a great bottle of red wine from California.
This list of California red blends includes all the big hitters: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Merlot. Each of these bottles is perfect for a long, lazy dinner under the stars and there’s something for everyone at your table.
Morgan 2018 G 17 Syrah (Santa Lucia Highlands); $25, 94 points. Lively aromas of black raspberry jam on French toast, dark hibiscus, tar and lavender show on the cool-climate nose of this bottling, which includes 3% each of Grenache and Tempranillo. The palate is vibrant with flavors of pepper, lavender and lilac, set against the richer black-raspberry and black-plum backdrop. –Matt Kettmann
Barra of Mendocino 2017 Estate Grown Petite Sirah (Mendocino); $22, 93 points. Smooth and sophisticated, this wine shows great polish and suppleness despite the firm tannins that come with the variety. Dense flavors of blueberry and blackberry are lightly accented by vanilla and cinnamon, while a creamy mouthfeel soothes the palate. Best through 2029. Editors’ Choice. –Jim Gordon
Blue Rock 2017 Baby Blue Red (Sonoma County); $29, 93 points. This juicy wine is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot, with smaller amounts of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Grippy, youthful tannins lend structure and length around tones of integrated oak, rich blueberry and strawberry. Editors’ Choice. –Virginie Boone
Vina Robles 2017 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $26, 93 points. This wine delivers loads of Paso Robles richness at a fair price, starting with lush aromas of black cherry, caramel and mocha cream. The palate starts soft and inviting, with more cherry and caramel, then firms up with tighter tannins and penetrating acidity. Editors’ Choice. –M.K.
Valravn 2018 Pinot Noir (Sonoma County); $24, 92 points. This is a high-toned, earthy and textured wine that overdelivers on its price point, presenting complex Asian spice, black-tea and candied cherry and raspberry flavor. The tannins are soft and well integrated, as is the oak, allowing plenty of room for nuance and elegant composure. Editors’ Choice. –V.B.
Chronic Cellars 2018 Suite Petite Petite Sirah (Paso Robles); $15, 91 points. Aromas of strawberry and boysenberry meet with smoked beef, violet and tar on the nose of this bottling, which includes 11% Syrah. Char and tar flavors are brushed with more elegant purple-flower and black-plum tones on the balanced palate. Best Buy. –M.K.
Mettler Family Vineyards 2016 Epicenter Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi); $25, 91 points. A lavish but balanced oak character brings this full-bodied wine enticing baking-spice aromas, velvety tannins and a sense of saturation that enhances the dark blueberry and blackberry fruit at its core. Best through 2026. –J.G.
Napa Cellars 2017 Merlot (Napa Valley); $25, 91 points. This is an explosive offering of succulent black cherry and cola that finds balance and backbone on the structured midpalate. It finishes with hints of clove, cedar and toasted oak that linger. –V.B.
Girard 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $30, 90 points. This is an outstanding wine for the price, a hearty, full-bodied and well-integrated wine offering high-toned red currant, citrus and cassis. Juicy, structured and broad in appeal, it has ample oak and tannin to stand up to the fruit. Editors’ Choice. –V.B.
Decoy 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County); $25, 90 points. Tasty red fruit is complemented by spicy oak in this approachable wine. With a juicy midpalate, it offers structure, rich smoothness and a lasting tone of warm spice. Editors’ Choice. –V.B.
Parducci 2018 Small Lot Pinot Noir (Mendocino County); $15, 90 points. Great acidity and lively red-cherry and raspberry flavors light up this well-balanced and full-bodied wine. Light but firm tannins boost the mouthfeel and keep the impression fresh through the finish. Best Buy. –J.G.
McManis 2018 Estate Grown Certified Sustainable Merlot (Lodi); $10, 88 points. Smoke and sage aromas meld with cherry and wood-smoke flavors to make a savory combination in this medium- to full-bodied wine. It shows good balance and light tannins, making it a great choice for drinking with protein-rich foods. Best Buy. –J.G.